The ballad begins: 'YE Whig Reformers all draw near, / To Aytoun'd trash ne'er lend an ear, / But join with me in a counter cheer - / Huzza for Provost Spittal!' A note below the title states that it should be sung to the tune of 'The Arethusa', which is a traditional Scottish song dating from around 1730, and also the name of a poem by the radical poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Although no publication date is included, a note at the foot of the sheet states that it was published by Waugh of Edinburgh.
This political ballad refers to the contest between Sir James Spittal (1769-1842) and Jamie - or Jemmy - Aytoun(1797-1881), who were campaigning to be elected as Provost of Edinburgh. James Spittal was Provost from 1833-7 and was the first Provost elected by a free vote after the passing of the Burgh Reform Act in 1833. This sheet was probably published around 1833. The National Library of Scotland's collection contains a number of broadsides describing this electoral contest. One, from the same publisher as this, is named 'Huzza! for Provost Aytoun!!' - obviously publishers could make more money by appealing to both factions!
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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Probable date published:
1833 shelfmark: ABS.10.203.01(087)
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